KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 13 —Three players lead the US$7 million (RM29 million) CIMB Classic which should make for some incredible golf on the final day tomorrow.
Gary Woodland (runner-up in 2013 and 2014), Marc Leishman and this year's Maybank Championships winner, Shubankar Sharma, are tied at 19-under on the newly upgraded West Course at TPC Kuala Lumpur and head into the final day with an incredible challenge ahead of themselves.
The multi award winning 18-hole West Course underwent an intensive 10-month upgrade works where they resurfaced the turf with identical grass—Bermuda grass—to those at TPC Sawgrass, the home of the unofficial “5th-Major” of golf, The Players Championships.
Kansas native, Woodland and Australian Leishman had rounds of 5-under 67 while Shubankar finished at 6-under 66. They hold a two shot lead over South African Louis Oosthuizen, the 2010 British Open champion.
“I’m surprised at the low scores despite the upgrade works,” Leishman told reporters after his round.
“It’s playing quite a lot shorter because the balls are running out on the fairways which leaves you with shorter irons into holes if you’re hitting the fairway.
“I didn’t think it would be like this, but I’m happy to be one of the guys that’s going low.”
Leishman’s playing partner today was Woodland and they will be paired again for tomorrow's finals round.
Those watching today could feel these two Tour veterans feeding off each others energy as overnight leader Woodland aims to break his bridesmaid's tag to step into the winners circle tomorrow.
“Leish and I play a lot of golf together and were comfortable with each other. Today you could see us feeding off each others energy and it made for some good golf,” said Woodland.
“The golf course is in great shape, the weather’s been perfect, so if that all stays the same, we’re going to have to go out and be aggressive and make some birdies.
“Four par 5’s out here and some holes you’ve got a lot of wedges into, so birdies are there. Hopefully I’ll make the most of it,” added the 34-year-old.
Finally we have one of Asia’s top prospects and a trailbalzer in the field, India’s Shubankar Sharma, who seems to find Malaysia a place where he excels.
After winning the Maybank Championships in February, Shubankar’s played all four Major championships in 2018 and made the cut at the British Open.
Shubankar is the type to slowly learn the course over the first few days and once he had a grasp of it he attacks relentlessly.
“I think the learning curve is similar for everyone,” Shubankar told reporters of his ability to adapt and learn a new golf course.
“You have to be good with your strategy, but it’s all about hitting it as close as possible from the fairways because you’re hitting short irons on every hole.
“It’s still anyone’s tournament tomorrow, so it’s all about getting off to a good start and trying to go as low as possible.
“Anything is possible until the 18th hole so I’m not going to think too much about what is going to happen and just trying to make birdie as much as possible and we’ll see what happens in the end.”
South African, Oosthuizen, won the Malaysian Open in 2012 when it was played at TPC. At the time TPC was called Kuala Lumpur Golf and Country Club (KLGCC).
He’s back in familiar territory but feels he has no advantages as the course is completely different from six years ago.
“The golf course is completely different,” said Oosthuizen.
“Greens are different, grass is different in the fairways, but like I said, I love the layout, I like the golf course and I need to play the same as I’ve played the last three days.
“The start’s crucial through that first seven holes. I won’t be surprised if someone goes 5 or 6-under in the first seven holes. I’ll probably need another low round to have a chance to win tomorrow.”
The CIMB Classic is a joint Professional Golfers Association (PGA) and Asian Tour event. The winners get a two-year exemption to play on the PGA Tour (America) and get 500 Fed Ex cup points. The winner takes home USD1.26 million (RM5,234,624)